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They had two sets of silverware and four sets of measuring spoons, but no can openers and only one hot mitt. Ryo had owned a full pair of them, before the move, but now - and he'd searched the "Kitchen" boxes three times - there was only the left one remaining.

"And we're not left-handed," he sighed quietly, folding aside a stack of napkins - half Dee's paper ones, half his own cloth ones - to reach the knife block beneath them. He set it on the counter carefully, making sure it wouldn't tip over, and smiled despite himself. Either Dee or Bikky had packed this box - though, probably, it had been Dee. Even Bikky had more sense than to leave a set of knives in the bottom of a box, just waiting to slip out of their wooden block and hurt somebody. Of course, Dee would say that the coffee mugs that filled the other half of the box were holding the knife hilts in place. And that was true, but still, it was a haphazard way to do it. Much like the methods of the man himself.

Muted noise from the living room drew his attention. Kitchen towel in hand, Ryo walked into the room to find Dee on the floor in its center, legs splayed in front of him, twisted at a funny angle so he could reach under the surface of a small table he was assembling. Ryo couldn't see his partner's face, but the muttered growls Dee was making were indication enough of his frustration level. Just as he'd opened his mouth to offer help, Dee stuck one hand out from under the table and waved it at Ryo.

"Come over here and hold this, wouldja?" Dee arced his wrist, pointing one finger at the corner of the tabletop, directly over the leg. "This top part, I'm trying to get the leg brace on and it-- eh, busted thing."

Ryo smiled. "It's not busted, Dee, it's just stubborn." One palm laid over the other, Ryo pressed both hands to the table's surface and leaned some weight onto them. Dee tugged from below, and a wooden clunk announced that the leg was finally set in place. Dee's elbows poked out from under the table's surface as he worked his screwdriver around from an awkward angle, and Ryo stood silent for a few moments to let Dee concentrate, maintaining his pressure on the table until he was sure it was settled.

A minute or two later, Dee twisted out from beneath the table and looked up at Ryo with a satisfied grin suffusing his features. "Awesome. The other three went on okay, but I think the thing was made a little wonky, didn't wanna fit perfect on this last one. Thanks."

Ryo nodded, crouching down next to Dee to examine the underside of the table. "Seems like a weird assembly," he agreed. "Did you get the other one done yet?"

"No, this's just the first one," Dee answered, panning his gaze around the room as he did, and Ryo followed his gaze while his thoughts drifted. The apartment was full of moving boxes, cartons of yet-to-be-assembled furniture, all mixed in and around Dee's existing living room furniture -- very much a work in progress. After all, they'd had less than a week to work on it, fitting the time around their long work shifts as much as was possible.

Knocking out the neighboring apartment's wall had given them almost double the space to work with - hosting small parties and gatherings was now a definite possibility, an option which Ryo was very happy about. They'd keep Dee's bedroom, and his bed - it was hard to beat a king size for comfort. And Bikky would get the new space's main bedroom, slightly smaller than Dee's and furnished with the bed and some furniture from Ryo's apartment.

That left the new living room, new third bedroom, and the new kitchen. Ryo and Dee had decided to keep Dee's kitchen as the main one, mainly because the layout was so much better, and while they hadn't decided what to do with the spare one yet, they had already appropriated the third bedroom as the guest room - slash - storage room. The new living room was further from the kitchen than the old, so Dee's living room furniture would be moving one room over, joined by Ryo's television stand and screen, bigger (and newer) than Dee's. In the old living room's space, Ryo had planned a dining room with a big table and seating for six, and Dee had improved on the plan by bringing home a set of barstools and plans for dividing the area with a small island/bar setup.

But all those plans were pretty far off, still. The rubble from the wall was cleared, the walls still smelled like new paint, and Dee's buckets of tools and equipment were all shoved in one corner of the new living room, waiting for their next use. A cluster of lamps, gathered from Ryo's apartment and not yet distributed throughout Dee's, stood together in another corner, and the spare kitchen was piled with stacks of pots, dishes, and pans that had been duplicated when they'd combined their collective kitchenware. Bikky's room was only halfway set up - the bed was fully reassembled, but the room was lit by a single clamp light on an extension cord out to the hallway while the three of them, collectively, tried to figure out what was wrong with the wiring in Bikky's room.

Ryo's name wasn't on the lease yet, but he'd tactfully informed the Badger that his current address was about to change, and he'd already submitted the change of address forms to the post office. On paper, Ryo was about as thoroughly moved in as he was in actuality, which meant that aside from tying up a few significant loose ends, he was, for sure and for real and no take-backs, Dee's live-in boyfriend.

Detangling himself from the table, Dee scooted closer to Ryo and folded himself around the man, long legs wrapping around Ryo's hips to hold him. Arms looped around Ryo's neck, Dee grinned at his partner from just a little further away than the end of his nose, and Ryo pulled a small frown.

"You're making me cross-eyed, Dee. I can't see you from that far away."

"Maybe you're nearsighted," Dee grinned, drawing closer still, and Ryo's only thought as the familiar glint lit Dee's half-lidded eyes was that he really had set himself up for that one.

They kissed, at first gently, with Dee leading. Then the quaky flutter that Ryo had come to love so much gripped him, filling him up like carbonation, and as something low in his body tightened in approval, Ryo pushed his tongue forward to take control of the kiss from Dee. He sighed, a little, a wet sound that made Dee growl and press forward again, and they went back and forth like this for a while, hands wandering. Dee's legs tightened around Ryo's hips and back, boxing him in; Ryo kept a tight hold on Dee's hair, keeping the man right where he wanted him.

"It's for real, then," Dee murmured, pulling away at last to study Ryo's face. "I really get to live with you."

Dee's eyes, always so intense in expression, seemed even more intense in color at that moment, a bright, rich green, brimful of the uncompromising certainty that was so characteristic of Dee himself. Ryo felt an irrational leap of lust for those eyes, the nuance of expressions they told him, and though some corner of his mind knew it could sort out the logic behind the impulse if he wanted to, Ryo ignored it and just smiled for Dee.

"I really get to live with you, Dee," Ryo reminded him. "And your messes. And your snoring."

Dee's mouth pulled down in a sudden frown. "I'm only messy when work's hard," he protested. "I'm really thorough the rest of the time!"

Ryo snickered. "You're also very easy to tease."

Dee's expression lit up in challenge. "I'll show you tease!" he threatened, tackling Ryo to the floor in one big pounce. "I'll tease you and tease you and have my way with you alllll over," he crowed, tugging down the collar of Ryo's turtleneck and covering his throat with his mouth.

"Dee~!" Ryo protested, squirming and trying to get away. "That tickles, and I haven't finished putting away the kitchen, and--mmnnnh!" His cheeks flushed and his back arched a little, responding eagerly to Dee's mouth and hands. Irritated at his reaction, Ryo tried to get himself under control -- this wasn't helping his argument at all, and there really was work to be done -- but Dee's teeth came down on the tendon of his neck, his fingers found Ryo's nipple, and with a needy groan, Ryo's hips bucked off the floor toward Dee's.

"Ha-haaa!" Dee exulted. "I gotcha now~!"

"Hornball, take it into the fucking bedroom! Some of us want to eat here."

Dee froze up, turning his gaze with a frustrated growl toward the kitchen doorway, where Bikky, looking the part of a full-grown man at only eighteen years old, stood dangling his copy of Dee's apartment keys with a smirk on his face. "Pervert."

"Shut up, you little rat, I'mma--" Dee devolved into incoherency, crouching lower over Ryo as though to claim his territory. Bikky, mostly ignoring the rant at this point, disappeared into the kitchen in search of the aforementioned food.

Ryo went limp underneath Dee, earnestly frustrated - despite what he'd said - to be interrupted this time. Bikky had saved his tail on many occasions in years past, mostly while Dee had still been courting Ryo, and Ryo had still been struggling with his feelings for Dee. But it had been three years since he'd first made love to Dee, and Ryo definitely didn't have any uncertainties any longer.

Meanwhile, Dee was still yelling toward the kitchen.

"You goddamn monkey, get your food and get out of here! This is my place, I can do whatever I want to Ryo!"

"Yeah, well I live here too now," Bikky countered, leaning head and shoulders through the doorway of the kitchen to give Dee a stink eye and the finger. "And I've still got a month till I leave for LA, and if you wanna be a perverted old man, you can go do it in your own bedroom."

"Bikky," Ryo sighed, trying to placate the boy while a hand on Dee's face soothed his partner. "Please do collect your food briskly, alright?"

Dee looked to Ryo sharply, his expression questioning, and Ryo smiled secretively in response. Bikky's voice drifted in from the kitchen.

"Well, yeah, I was gonna be fast anyway, I have to go be somewhere, there's things, and stuff, and whatever, I won't be back til real late, don't wait up for me or whatever."

Ryo smiled. "Thank you, Bikky."

"Whatever." But the smile he shot Ryo from around the corner of the kitchen doorway was real.

Dee remained crouched over Ryo, his knees probably going numb from the wood floor, until the apartment door clacked shut behind Bikky a few minutes later. Then, as both of them let out a breath of relief, Ryo reached up to smooth Dee's hair back from his forehead.

"I think we can put the rest of the kitchen things away after dinner, don't you?"

Dee's answering grin was full of teeth. "I think I'mma have my dessert first, if ya know what I mean!" He licked his lips to emphasize his point, obscenely suggestive.

Ryo rolled his eyes. "If you want dessert, you have to let me up. You can't have dessert on the living room floor."

Dee waggled his brows. "Oh, I think I ca--"

"No," Ryo cut him off. "Up! Or no dessert at all."

"You're a task master, you know that?" Dee whined, rolling off Ryo with great reluctance. "Absolutely cruel! So mean!"

"And you're never going to change, I think," Ryo remarked with a smile, standing up --and wincing as he did. He tried to be subtle as he made the necessary adjustments, but Dee caught his hand at the wrist before Ryo could draw it away from his crotch. The look Dee gave him, dragging his gaze from the gentle rise between Ryo's legs up to his face, said everything. Ryo flushed, pulling his hand free with a huff.

"Don't look at me like that, Dee, that was--"

"Oh, I plan to look," Dee purred. "Oh, yeah! Come on, come on~!" Pushing Ryo before him, Dee drove them both into the bedroom without another second's pause, and tackled Ryo to the bed as soon as they were close enough. The blond had barely a moment's time to see Dee's expression before his turtleneck was getting dragged off over his head, and Dee's hands were at Ryo's fly, opening his belt and zipper.

"D-Dee," Ryo stammered, already short of breath. Every time Dee did this - every time the man's world narrowed to include nothing except his need for Ryo, every time he attacked Ryo's body like a man both starving and worshipful at the same time - Ryo just couldn't resist him. Didn't want to, either. And as Dee laid kisses and long, wet licks all over Ryo's chest and stomach, hands working his slacks free, he was growling hungry, excited words.

"Gonna make you know, Ryo," Dee promised him. His green eyes shone up at Ryo now, through Dee's dark bangs and dark eyelashes. Those green eyes had always, since the first day they'd met, been so intensely directed straight at Ryo. And he still remembered how much it had scared him, to be the target of that overwhelming focus.

"Gonna make you know, Ryo. Every inch of you, I'll show you. I'll show you that you're the most loved man in all of New York. Nobody loves more than I love you, Ryo."

Ryo arched into Dee's mouth, his own knuckles between his teeth to hold back his own needy sounds, and his heart thrilled as the same old, oh so familiar, oh so precious, feeling came over him. He was floating on air again, every inch of him tingling. He was in Dee's arms, and he knew.

*